Memory and memories

Dennis AkersDennis Akers | Director, IH Mataró

Quote Our brains are designed to remember anything that has an emotional charge, not to remember random dates or facts that do not interest us Quote


Aquesta pàgina en Català English

Nowadays a lot of media attention is being paid to memory, memories and the problem of forgetting where we put our mobile phone. Not remembering where we put the mobile phone we had in our hands only 5 minutes before brings us out in a cold sweat.  Is this the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Are we getting old and senile?

In reality this 21st century panic attack can generally be attributed to not understanding one basic fact of how our brains work.  Memory is created by the power of our emotions! Our brains are designed to remember anything that has an emotional charge, not to remember random dates or facts that do not interest us.  Remembering random historical dates about Catholic kings or industrial revolutions is one of the hardest tasks of any schoolboy or schoolgirl – unless, of course, that schoolboy or schoolgirl is passionately interested in Catholic kings or the industrial revolution!

This is why we remember our first kiss so many years ago, but not where we put our mobile phone 5 minutes ago. A first kiss has many sensory inputs into our brains – sight, smell, sound, touch, hearing and the power of first time emotions. Forgetting we put our mobile phone on the kitchen table while thinking of what we have to do as soon as we get to work has very little to offer emotionally!

If we want to remember random facts that do not interest us we have to rehearse and rehearse and more than likely we’ll forget these facts the day after the exam.  Memories that have an emotional charge are the opposite. They can be difficult to get rid of. Ask anyone whose boyfriend or girlfriend has left them for another!

For teaching languages (and other subjects), therefore, there is a simple rule. Teachers have to connect as much as possible to student’s emotions – in a positive way, of course. Then it becomes memorable – and the only proof of learning is memory!